Fagan Park is an attraction of two halves - the parks, the gardens including an eco garden, the walks, the bike rides on sealed paths, lakes, kiosk and picnics areas. Then there’s the historical side, managed by Friends of Fagan Park, a group of retirees intent on preserving local treasures.
Put the two together and this 55 hectares is the the antidote to the digital age, the place to slow down, take a gentle stroll and most importantly get a glimpse of yesterday.
On a visit I saw things at the Park’s charming Edwardian homestead Netherby which hurtled me back to childhood visits to my grandmother’s house: a laundry copper, a meshcovered meatsafe, a wall-mounted wind up phone.
Outside huddled around this graceful old home is a collection of wooden buildings housing a sizeable collection of memorabilia all things farm and vehicle related: a 1000 egg incubator, a fruit grading machine, all manner of scythes, tractors, sulkys and an old petrol bowser. The prize pieces in my mind were the two vehicles: a 1927 Chevrolet and a 1932 Leyland Hub truck.
“The Park was a single parcel of land farmed as a citrus orchard and Jersey dairy before owner Bruce Fagan gifted it to the state government in 1979,” explains Friends of Fagan Park and museum curator Ian Browning. “Today it is under the custodianship of Hornsby Council.
“Last week we had 88 year 2 kids come through and they loved the interactive items like the wind up gramophone and the manual cash register,” said Ian. “These are items they'll never again see in their lifetime so it’s important we tell them about the past.”
There’s also a blacksmith’s, tack room, fruit packing shed, a tractor and car shed, dairy museum and an agricultural museum all packed with essential implements for farming 100 years ago. Most are sourced from the surrounding district: some restored tractors were used in WW2.
“We have a collection which doesn’t have an equal in the Sydney area. We get about 160,000 visitors a year but we rely on Council to pay our bills. We want to encourage more visitors to this snapshot of agricultural history that needs preserving.”
Jenny Barlass with Ian Browning and the 1932 Leyland Hub truck
Some of the retiree Friends responsible for keeping the place together, with Curator Ian Brown, fourth from left.
Ian Browning with the wind-up phone